The struggle to farm the acreage on our property is like an ongoing hike in the woods. Sometimes you are walking through a serene picturesque grove and at other times you are pulling your way up the side of a cliff. With another year already rolling through, I find myself juggling the demands of farming with the demands of being a mother and a homemaker. It feels like it’s already taken us on such an adventure and we are barely 3 month into the year. I hope that at the end of this year my heart will be fuller than it was when I started out.
Garlic is a must plant on the list both because I crave it and because it always sells. We bought 15lbs of Peaceful Valley garlic cloves and successfully planted the four varieties back in December. Within a week of it showing up at our front gate we were down on our knees separating the heads, papery husks flying into the wind. Then as if a naggy mother at our heels, we experienced several days of hard frost. Thank goodness we got straw down within the week and covered them so we only lost a few out of 3 rows that are 100ft long each. We are excited to grow Metechi, Music, Red Romanian and Spanish Roja. I try to buy the organic before the conventional and I got two out of four this year. We have green garlic sprouts that have popped through the thick layer of straw and they are about 6-12 inches tall. As I look down to the plot from the house the strong green lines are a good sign that things are on track. I sprinkled some bone meal and blood meal on them 6 weeks ago and I plan on putting another dressing on again in another week. I can’t wait for garlic breath!
Turning dirt is a sore subject! No literally… it is! Until this year the majority of our soil preparation for planting has been done either with a rototiller or hand tools. Because I hate what tilling does to the soil, I try to avoid it at all costs. Gernerally I keep it to 3 times a year. My parents purchased a LA340 Kubota last year and have graciously allowed us to keep and borrow it for extended stays here on our farm. Using the disk attachment has helped us to work the soil a little more prior to digging our rows for planting. As usual, being on sloped terrain makes farming challenging. The front end bucket has come in handy moving manure and compost from the front of the property to the rear and up the other side. The hardest part was getting from “Garden 2” into “Garden 3” without running over the garlic. Of course owning a tractor is like any other piece of equipment, once you get the basics you want to buy all the attachments! Now I’m looking for a furrow maker and a field cultivator with an auger is on my “someday” list. I was postponing putting in the cover crop but now that it’s raining today I will be chomping at the bit to get out there and cast the seed into “Garden 1” for nitrogen fixing for next year.
We spent the month of February planting onions, leeks and snow peas. Everything came as ordered and right on time. We try to buy organic seeds and started but Dixondale Farms is the exception because I LOVE their stuff and I have never wanted to start my own onion from seed. We always get mainly the Candy Apple Purples which are an intermediate day growing variety that is the sweetest purple onion I’ve ever grown. This year we also purchased the Lancelot Leek and the Red Torpedo Tropea because the chefs like them.
Our weather is extremely volatile. The fall started out warm and carried on through December then suddenly turned cold quickly. January heated back up and then February came! February has a been consistently freezing with highs in 60’s and lows in 20’s. The buds came out on our peach tree in January and within the last few weeks we’ve lost all our blooms and fruit set was disrupted. I am not holding my breath for peaches this year. Until today were only at 2.58 inches of rain for the year from last July through today! It hasn’t had that little rain since 1942! Going into this summer I am nervous about water. We live in an area where residential wells are drying up, vineyards continue to irrigate without restriction and drilling on pre-existing wells and permits is allowed. We operate on drip tape solely and everything is set up to water at night. We utilize mulches to bury the tape. We are trying to retain the moisture in the soil.
As usual I started my tomato and pepper seeds indoors in January. I have done somewhere around 4000 transplants and have more still to transplant. Most will go in ground but I sell extras off because over the years people have asked for our unique varieties. The hardest part is juggling all the starts in between the garage and the two greenhouses which seem smaller and smaller every year. Now is the time for daily watering, opening and closing of doors and windows, lights and heat mats on and off, etc. and you know I’m vested when I start pep-talking the plants as they are growing bigger “You are getting so big! Keep it up!” Out here there is no one to tell me I’m crazy when I’m alone.
I feel like farming is a idealistic vision that exemplifies the perfect weather, the ease of operating equipment, a day coming to an end with a happy farming family sitting down for dinner… but that is rarely ever our story. It’s mostly me troubleshooting leaks, walking around the farm with pockets full of drip supplies dropping everywhere, chasing out chickens from sensitive areas, getting beat up by sharp and heavy objects and working waaaayyy too late outside after the sun has set, then humping it up the hill, hoping to God I can pull a rabbit out of my hat to make dinner with my patient but hungry husband and frustrated kids wanting to eat dinner! We still dig and groom our rows with hand tools. We plant every single seed and plant by hand. At night, after a long day on the farm, we are covered in dirt, stickers, our hands blistered and our backs aching. I don’t know about other farmers, but for me our budget is always tight this time of year and there is always more repairs to mend and supplies to buy. There is so much to do with a vision but not always the abundance of income or resources to see those visions through. Please forgive the rant. I hate sounding like a downer but my point is that farming is hard. It’s not all cupcakes and rainbows. What makes it worth it is when our customers are willing to pay the prices for our produce and keep us in business. Now at the dimming of the day I still do close my eyes and recall why I am still here and it still solicits a smile and the nodding of my head. I love selling food….good healthy food to my community! I gotta go transplant, check on the new baby chics, close up the greenhouse and start dinner. Hopefully as our year treks on I will be better about updating you on my path, though it is mostly bumpy and rocky….is my adventure! Thanks for letting me share it with you.